View Full Version : "...twanging away on an 'ukulele..."

Harold O.
12-26-2010, 02:30 PM
My family and I will be on Oahu next week for a few days then we're off to the Big Island for a few more. I got looking at a few recommended tour books and this is what I found.

from Hawaii, The Big Island Revealed
The Ultimate Guidebook by Andrew Doughty, 2008:
"Many people picture Hawaiian music as someone twanging away on an 'ukulele with his voice slipping and sliding all over the place like he has an ice cube down his back. In reality, the music here can be outstanding. There is the melodic sound of the more traditional music. There are young local bands putting out modern music with a Hawaiian beat. There is even Hawaiian reggae, Hawaiian Style Band, the late Israel Kamakawiwo'ole (locally known as Bruddah Iz) and Bruddah Walta are excellent examples. Even if you don't agree with all of the messages in the songs, there's no denying the talent of these groups."

This is the only ukulele mention in 300+ pages of the Big Island guidebook. It strikes me as dismissive and condescending of the ukulele. I'm willing to admit that finding a ukulele while in Hawaii is a touristy kind of thing to do, I'm also willing to admit to being a tourist and sometimes digging doing the touristy kind of thing.

Stereotypical though it may be, when folks come to Los Angeles they want to see Hollywood, the Santa Monica pier and Disneyland. When those same people go to Hawaii, they want to see hula girls, surfers and ukuleles. In New York, they're looking for the Statue of Liberty, Brooklyn Bridge and Empire State Building. And so on.

So the question is, outside of the UU circles, are ukuleles in Hawaii thought of as offensive touristy things or are they viewed as any other musical instrument?

12-26-2010, 02:51 PM
Seems to me that this is just part of the misguided thinking of dismissing the ukulele as something less than a "real" instrument. This seems to persist despite the "comeback" the uke has made.

There's a photostream on Flickr (http://www.flickr.com/photos/7957972@N06/sets/72157600443325632/) from a woman in Honolulu who documents a lot of music, among other things. Check it out - lots of ukuleles, and musch of it seems like part of everyday life rather than part of the tourist scene.

mm stan
12-26-2010, 02:52 PM
Aloha Harold,
I know you'll enjoy your vacation here....When in waikiki check out the Kani kapila grill....and other hot shows in Waikiki...Aloha Tower marketplace, Ala Moana etc...for culture on the other side
of the island...Polynesian Cultural Center, Arizona Memorial, Iolani Palace, Bishop Museum etc.. As for ukes, were very serious about them here...just check the shops and shows and see...hope
you're not planning to leave without getting a "K" brand... and not one of those cheapie tourist toys...he he...Have fun and Enjoy!! MM Stan...
Over the years or shall decades the ukulele has made great strides from a backup instrument to a Lead instrument....see how much can be realy achieved in the right hands...visit the shows..

12-26-2010, 03:08 PM
Harold - I ditto Stan's comments, re: da uke. It's not a toy - as I believed before my first visit to Hawai'i back in 2003. I was stunned and amazed by the Hawai'ian musicians playing traditional and contemporary music on the uke, which was played much like lead guitar in a rock band. I fell in love with the little instrument, and ended up buying my first uke when I returned home. When I returned to Hawai'i (actually Maui) in 2005, I bought my first 'real' ukulele - a Kamaka 8-string concert uke - at Bounty Music. It traveled home in my lap on the airplane ride back to the mainland, and has been part of my musical instrument arsenal since then.

I love your query and look forward to hearing from more musicians based in Hawai'i on their views and perceptions. Of course with this being UU, I kinda think the feedback will be more positive than if you had posted the query on a generic musical board, or even one for guitarists. Cheers and Twangs!

Harold O.
12-27-2010, 06:43 PM
I purchased a Koaloha concert from MGM last year in Los Angeles. We're looking forward to stopping by the factory during our short stay on Oahu, especially since I operate a woodshop.

My wife and I did all the Oahu touristy stuff 20 years ago (we were among the first paying customers at Lanai's Lodge at Ko'ele) and will be sharing some of that with our daughters this time around. They know I have a uke jones, so I will be granted some leeway.

What struck me most about the tour book was it's complete contempt for the ukulele. I'm guessing the author is a long-time resident and has a decent feel for island happenings. That's why I posted his quote and wondered out loud about it. There is no other mention of music in the book. It's a couple of years old, maybe things have changed.